"Words Fail Me. It's Insanity": Inside Tesla's "Preposterous" Model 3 Production Tent

Bears and bulls alike following Tesla's gripping nailbiter of a story - the company has until the end of the month to pump out 5,000 Model 3 sedans a week - both agree on one thing: the output of the company's new "tent" structure which Musk erected recently to produce Model 3 vehicles is going to decide whether or not the company hits its production goal that it has touted over the last couple of months.

Photo Credits: Bloomberg

The tent was erected in just a matter of weeks, and came online in early June, to help the company produce more vehicles at a time when they are under the microscope. Until recently, we didn’t know the details as to when it was erected, what the timing looked like and what it is expected to produce. However, a Bloomberg article out today helped shed some light on the details of what is arguably the most important - if archaic - structure that Tesla has built yet.

Not surprisingly, opinions extend the whole gamut, with some manufacturing experts claiming the tent is "basically nuts":

Elon Musk has six days to make good on his pledge that Tesla Inc. will be pumping out 5,000 Model 3 sedans a week by the end of the month. If he succeeds, it may be thanks to the curious structure outside the company’s factory. It’s a tent the size of two football fields that Musk calls “pretty sweet” and that manufacturing experts deride as, basically, nuts.

...

Inside the tent in Fremont, California, is an assembly line Musk hastily pulled together for the Model 3. That’s the electric car that is supposed to vault Tesla from niche player for the wealthy to high-volume automaker, bringing a more affordable electric vehicle to the masses.

Analysts at Bernstein are equally unimpressed. Here is a quote from Max Warburton who benchmarked auto assembly plants before his job as a financial analyst:  “Words fail me. It’s insanity,” said Max Warburton, who benchmarked auto-assembly plants around the world before becoming a financial analyst.

Ironically, Musk's "Hail Mary" is the polar opposite of Tesla's own vision for its future of state of the art robotics, hermetically sealed manufacturing facilities and millisecond efficiency.

To be sure, the tent is also a far cry from the automation that investors were promised during the early days of Tesla. The company‘s goal, which once was to have a state of the art factory producing vehicles, has now been reduced to a literal tent using manual labor and spare parts to put together cars. Worse, nobody seems to even know whether or not the line is up and running. Welcome to the future?

Musk announced it on Twitter on June 16, saying the company had put together an “entire new general assembly line” in three weeks with spare parts; the building permit was issued on June 13, though the company could have started working on aspects of the project before that.

Whether this new line is fully operational is unclear. Company officials declined to comment. The Tesla-obsessed users of Twitter and other internet forums have posted photos and videos and comments either praising or ridiculing the parking-lot big top. Apparently in response to the intense interest, the tent has recently been surrounded by very large trucks, which obstruct the view.

Predictably, the tent is being called a "hail mary" move by analysts, after the company finally admitted that its vision for automation and assembly - pitched as the "most sophisticated in the world" as recently as February 2018 -was  simply "not working":

What gives manufacturing experts pause about Tesla’s tent is that it was pitched to shelter an assembly line cobbled together with scraps lying around the brick-and-mortar plant. It smacks of a Hail Mary move after months of stopping and starting production to make on-the-fly fixes to automated equipment, which Musk himself has said was a mistake.

The existing line isn’t functional, it can’t build cars as planned and there isn’t room to get people into work stations to replace the non-functioning robots,” Warburton said in an email. “So here we have it—build cars manually in the parking lot.”

As Bloomberg notes, an April admission that he erred by putting too many robots in Tesla’s plants was a humbling moment for Musk. The chief executive officer had boasted in the past that his company would build an “alien dreadnought,” sci-fi bro code for a factory so advanced and robotic, it would be incomprehensible to primitive earthlings.

During a February earnings call, Musk told analysts that Tesla had an automated-parts conveyance system that was “probably the most sophisticated in the world.” But by the spring, it had been ripped out of the factory.

“We had this crazy, complex network of conveyor belts,” Musk told CBS This Morning in April. “And it was not working, so we got rid of that whole thing.”

Analyst Dave Sullivan, who previously used to supervise Ford factories and now works at AutoPacific, chimed in: "To say that it’s more efficient to build this with scrap pieces laying around means that either somebody made really bad decisions with the parts in the plant inside, or there are a lot of other problems yet to be discovered with Tesla’s efficiency.”

The article concludes with what may be the most suitable epitaph for Tesla should Musk disappoint in a few days when he reports Q2 production figures.

“It’s preposterous,” Bernstein’s Warburton said.

“I don’t think anyone’s seen anything like this outside of the military trying to service vehicles in a war zone. I pity any customer taking delivery of one of these cars. The quality will be shocking.”

Preposterous or not, the clock is ticking on Tesla.

The company has just days before it has to update investors on the current state of production and how the business is running. If the tent is any indication, expect many to voice their disappointments out in the open...

Comments

any_mouse greenskeeper carl Mon, 06/25/2018 - 20:17 Permalink

Here's what AI journalism gets you:

"Here is a quote from Max Warburton who benchmarked auto assembly plants before his job as a financial analyst:  “Words fail me. It’s insanity,” said Max Warburton, who benchmarked auto-assembly plants around the world before becoming a financial analyst."

Thrown a few billion dollars at journo-bot and maybe it will get better. Meanwhile the ad bots get all the dollars.

Warburton, interesting name, any connection to Warburg?

In reply to by greenskeeper carl

jcaz Dickweed Wang Mon, 06/25/2018 - 20:58 Permalink

"Hey, what's all this dirt and crap on the inside of my car?"

"Are these ants and cockroaches standard, or do I have to pay extra?"

So lemme get this straight- you want me to pay you $55K to buy a car you built in a tent in your backyard..... You're soon gonna live in a van down by the river......

Seriously-  very few chop shops look this hinky, let alone "America's Largest Car Manufacturer"........

In reply to by Dickweed Wang

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In reply to by jcaz

Tarzan Carla Houston Mon, 06/25/2018 - 21:52 Permalink

"The chief executive officer had boasted in the past that his company would build an “alien dreadnought,” sci-fi bro code for a factory so advanced and robotic, it would be incomprehensible to primitive earthlings."

During a February earnings call, Musk told analysts that Tesla had an automated-parts conveyance system that was “probably the most sophisticated in the world.” But by the spring, it had been ripped out of the factory.

“We had this crazy, complex network of conveyor belts,” Musk told CBS This Morning in April. “And it was not working, so we got rid of that whole thing.”

And they say robots are going to take all of our jobs.

In reply to by Carla Houston

Keyser garypaul Tue, 06/26/2018 - 00:46 Permalink

I wonder how long it will be before Musk is caught dealing cocaine out of the trunk of a Model 3 in order to make payroll for the week? If it were not for Obozo's subsidies to Musk, we wouldn't be talking about this topic, Tesla would have gone the way of the DoDo bird a long time ago...

In reply to by garypaul

giovanni_f DaiRR Tue, 06/26/2018 - 02:24 Permalink

it is high time to punish the Europeans with their high tariffs which hurt a.o. Tesla and similar American quality manufacturers.

I think it is fair at this point to confiscate BMW and VW factories and forfeit all other assets pertainig to aggressive Germany's state capitalism straw companies and hand them all over to Tesla, GM, Ford.

Time to strike back against those foreign invaders.

In reply to by DaiRR

Last of the Mi… Bronze Tue, 06/26/2018 - 08:36 Permalink

This is attempt to build in a "tent" will mostly likely expose the horrible inefficiences that exist in the production line system as a whole. It takes a truly massive effort to maintain a "just in time" supply system for a small business to say nothing of an automobile production facility. 

What is in danger of being openly exposed, more so than building the cars in a fricking tent, is the amateurish application of a real world assembly line by the worlds's most successful professional carney. As time goes on, the gap between real world application and fantasy salesmanship will only widen. 

Musk is out of his league and the tent facility exposes this in spades. 

In reply to by Bronze

inhibi SamAdams Tue, 06/26/2018 - 12:55 Permalink

Does anyone with an ounce of common sense need to know which operations are completed in the tent?

The answer is no. No you dont.

I worked in the auto industry, and every reputable OEM tries its best to either wash parts &/or build in a clean room. A simple act of grinding metal can create particulates that can clog the inside of a transmission or take out an axle if it gets into the bearing system (as learned by Jatco/Nissan back in the late 90's).

Building anything at all, even checking components, should never be done in an open air dome (in dusty Fremont CA no less). Never ever ever. And opinions by experts, as quoted in the above article, are backed by many years of experience. Or do you think a guy who has probably visited most car factories on this planet is just making shit up?

Everything about cars is all about attention to detail: no scratches, no dust/particulates in any system, everything fine tuned, clean, basically as perfect as possible so the consumer gets a polished product. Or do you like buying a new car that spews dust when you first turn it on? 

This whole situation with Tesla is classic: classic to every now-defunct car company. They cant even put a candle to Daimler, let alone some lower tier OEMs like Ford. Not a single OEM that you know of builds cars in a tent. Not a single one says they have "the most advanced factory". Why? Cause do you seriously think MASS PRODUCED cars would be built better and with more advanced techniques than say a McLaren or Lambo?

And even if Musk was talking about his factories automation, do you think a manufacturer that is producing MILLIONS or cars would have WORSE technology than Musk who is producing 50,000? How stupid does Musk think everyone else is to believe his BS?

Apparently, people like you lick it up until the floor is clean.

 

 

In reply to by SamAdams

Bubba Rum Das Bronze Tue, 06/26/2018 - 08:40 Permalink

I still have this question stuck in my head; what percentage of all this is true autistic mental retardation on the part of Musk; & what percentage is just outright absolute fraud? 60%/40%? 40%/60%? 5%/95%?

 

My feeling is it's actually around 80% retardation on Musks part to even think he can pull this shit off, & around 98% direct fraud on his part....!

 

In reply to by Bronze

CuttingEdge buffed Tue, 06/26/2018 - 06:52 Permalink

Sadly, I'm not allowed to forget it.

The wife got chatted up by some bloke at an auto fair way back, and he let her drive his DeLorean. A story that always comes out in company. Personally, I prefer my taking Mansell's Ferrari Testarossa (gift from the team) for a quick spin when we had it in our workshops for some serious audio love.

That engine howl stays with you for life...shite handling though.

In reply to by buffed

inhibi Socratic Dog Tue, 06/26/2018 - 13:05 Permalink

PayPal: No competition

SpaceEx: No competition

Batteries & Cars: Highly competitive (high volume, low margin), state-of-the-art manufacturing with BILLIONS of R&D pumped in from various governments in the world for decades. We are talking about going against massive OEMs with global networks, state of the art facilities, cream of the crop of mechanical engineers, etc.

And Musk thinks he's all that and says his factory will be the "most advanced in the world". I doubt its even most advanced in the US. Everything he says is utter BS:

 

In reply to by Socratic Dog